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Lack of welfare schemes, BSF curbs force West Bengal farmers to migrate far away

Counteview Desk 

In a representation to the National Human Rights Commission chairperson, a senior West Bengal based activist has complained that villagers living near the border with Bangladesh are forced to migrate to as far away as Mumbai and Kerala because of lack of government sensitivity towards their welfare in original villages.
Giving specific instances, Kirity Roy, secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), said, if the Border Security Force (BSF) had not put any restriction on agricultural activities, and if villages had properly implemented welfare schemes, these people would never migrate to other States.

Text:

I want to attract your immediate attention to the inhumane condition of the migrated workers of Gobra village, Swarupnagar Block in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal to seek your urgent intervention to protect the rights of these people.
Gobra is a village situated near the Indo-Bangladesh Border where the border fencing is about 500 meters inland. In our fact-finding we have found that the village lacks basic facilities such as basic health facilities, Ration shops, proper road network etc. The land in the village is fertile, but, in the lands which are situated beyond the fencing, the villagers cannot cultivate due to BSF restrictions. The primary profession of the villagers is agricultural work, but the villagers don't recover sufficient income from this profession. The works under MGNREGA are in a terrible state, and moreover everybody in the village doesn’t possess a job card under the scheme. The people who have job cards, find jobs for around 20-40 days a year. This horrendous situation forces the villagers to undertake unsafe migration to the other parts of the country.
The situation under which the villagers are undertaking migration is extremely unsafe. Nor the local panchayat or the administration keep any record related to it, neither are they provided with a Building and Other Construction Workers (BOCW) card. During their stay out-station they are forced to live in slum-like and unhealthy situations where basic sanitation, clean and regular water supply is lacking. Due to the absence of data, the safety and security of their life and livelihood are always at risk.
The daily wages they earn vary, in Mumbai it is between Rs 350-500, and in Kerala it is between Rs 500-800, as there are no general guidelines about the wage amount.
The following is the list of the villagers of Gobra who migrated to the different states:

The Inter-State Migrant Workmen Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Services) Act, 1979 (ISMW) Act provides that the labor contractors recruiting migrants are required to: (i) be licensed, (ii) register migrant workers with the government authorities, and (iii) arrange for the worker to be issued passbook recording their identity. Guidelines regarding wages and protections (including accommodation, free medical facilities, and protective clothing) to be provided by the labor contractor are also outlined in the law. In this case the workers don’t even have BOCW cards. Nor do they get any legal safety net from various violations.
In our fact finding related to this complaint, we have found that at least two of these workers are minors. They are living in the lack of all sorts of recreational activities and chances to attain quality education. At the same time, the conditions they are living in violates several Articles of Convention on the Rights of the Child, to be named, Articles 27, 28 and 32. The protection of children is of utmost importance for anybody sworn to protect human rights. Thus, giving them a proper childhood must be taken care of by the State at any cost.
Two of the migrants
If these villagers get proper agricultural support, if BSF does not put any restriction on the agricultural activities, and if the villages have proper implementation of the welfare schemes, these people would never migrate to other states. BSF’s intervention in the workings of the farmers, making arbitrary rules not to cultivate any profitable crops within 200 meter distance from the border fencing paralyzes the villagers economically. 
This incident also violates Articles 2, 12, 13 and 16 of the United Nations Declaration for the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP) in whose favor the Government of India voted. When these villagers migrate to different states for earning, they are subjected to ill treatment which is also in violation of the provision of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. Where will these people go to run their lives better? ‘Life’ in Article 21 of the Constitution is not merely the physical act of breathing. It is much wider, including the right to live with human dignity and the right to livelihood. Due to such de facto forced migration these people are losing this very right.
Therefore I request your urgent intervention in this case to help these villagers find respite and humane life. On this note, I am putting forth the following demands of the villagers:
  • BSF should not put any restriction on the cultivation of profitable crops in the village Gobra.
  • International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families Adopted by General Assembly resolution 45/158 of 18 December 1990, must be followed to letters.
  • Security and safety of these migrant workers must be ensured, and legal safeguards such as ISMW-1979 must be implemented properly.
  • Ensure the implementation of government welfare schemes such as MGNREGA at Gobra.
  • The line departments of government and respective Panchayat / Municipality must maintain a detailed register of the migrant labourers (outgoing and incoming) and provide them with a government welfare scheme when they are out-station.
  • The government must ensure basic facilities such as proper housing, healthcare etc. for the migrants at their work-stations.
  • Government must implement schemes to provide the migrants with rations in the non-home States.
  • There must be government monitoring to protect the migrants from the ill-treatment of the contractor.

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